2007 Saturn Outlook – Lambda Crossover SUV
- May 25, 2007
- Buick, GM, GMC, On The Road: Driving Impressions, More Categories...
- Posted by George Peterson
- 2 Comments
The Saturn Outlook is a large Crossover SUV based on the General Motors’ Lambda platform. The Lambda platform is shared with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia and also with an upcoming Chevrolet large Crossover.
Has GM Nailed Crossover SUV Execution?
First, you might be asking “what is a Crossover SUV”? For years, we at VehicleVoice have been avoiding using the “crossover” word because, frankly, our research shows that consumers are not yet using the term widely. In our eyes, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. Our chief industry oracle, Jim Hall, always referred to Crossovers as “mongrelhalfbreedbastards”. But, with vehicles like the Outlook hitting the market we’ve decided to use the Crossover moniker.
Basically, a Crossover SUV takes the basic SUV theme and civilizes it. SUV drivers have for decades been asking for more maneuverable, more economical, more easy to live with SUVs. Crossover SUVs are the answer and the GM Lambda vehicles are the latest examples of Crossover SUV design and execution. We think GM has pretty well nailed it.
Pricing Makes Outlook a Persuasive Proposition
The Saturn Outlook XR that we evaluated is a mid-priced model listing at about $33,250. When you check the boxes you really want – like all wheel drive and a navigation system the price slips over $41,000. When you check ALL the boxes and add a moonroof and rear seat entertainment system you can touch $45,000. For a Saturn!
While you might think that is a high price, the base, base, base price of the FWD Outlook XE (the lower model) is about $28,000 including destination. This puts it mid-way between the base price of a Ford Explorer and Expedition. Given that Outlook is about the size of a Chevrolet Tahoe – priced about $4,000 more with a V8, the Saturn looks like a good deal.
Michigan Assembled – UAW Workforce
The Outlook, Acadia and Enclave are assembled at General Motors’ new greenfield assembly plant in Delta Township (Lansing), Michigan. Asked why GM did not use the old Oldsmobile plant in Lansing, Anna Kretz the Lambda program Vehicle Line Executive explained that it is cheaper and more efficient to build a plant that uses all the most modern assembly philosophies than to modify an existing facility. General Motors kept its assembly in the Lansing area because of their respect for the experienced UAW workforce that had previously built Oldsmobiles and even Chevrolet SSRs (Lansing Craft Center).
Outlook Style – Contemporary and Tasteful
The Outlook is not overdone like some SUVs. It has a sense of strength and restraint. It has a purposeful stance with the tires out at the edges of the vehicle. The 255/60R18 Goodyear Fortera tires communicate excellent capability and the machine-like wheels of the XR model reinforce that message.
With three (and, later, four) Crossover SUVs to differentiate on the same platform, General Motors uses a graphics trick on its greenhouses. The Outlook has the D-Pillar covered with wraparound blacked out glass. The Enclave has a rising character line in its quarter panel and a distinctive D-Pillar. The Acadia has a relatively conventional SUV-like D-Pillar. So what do these various designs say? Saturn – modern and contemporary. Enclave – upscale and premium. Acadia – SUV-like capability in a Crossover package.
Living with the Outlook
Powered by a 275HP 3.6L V6 engine, the Outlook has acceptable performance with adequate acceleration. Not an enthusiast’s Crossover, the Outlook come across as competent – no surprises. It is pleasant to drive, quiet at around-tpwm speeds, has flat handling with too much understeer, good braking and pretty good maneuverability. Really nothing not to like. But, it’s not a Touareg V8 or an XC90 V8. Biggest complaint is that wind noise at freeway cruising speeds is much too high. High NVH overwhelms the otherwise excellent audio system.
Ergonomics are excellent with easy to read dials and gauges (this with a yellow/orange tone rather than the blue graphics seen on the Buick). This example has the General Motors new corporate radio that insiders refer to as the bowtie radio. Nice unit.
As with all the Lambdas, Outlook has three rows of seats. The driver and front seat passenger compartment is spacious. The second row seat is easy to get into and out of. The third row seat easy to access and giving reasonable room for smaller humans. The 3rd row manually folds flat and is pretty easy to actuate leaving a large rear cargo area for the inevitable trips to Costco.
Outlook (like Enclave and Acadia) has a spacious storage area under the rear load floor. This is a good place to hide valuables when on a trip. It would be nice for it to be lockable, but the feature is very worthwhile even without a lock.
My My Wife and I are looking for a stylish, relatively inexpensive SUV with fold flat back seats and enough room in the third row to actually use it. These requirements knock just about every SUV off the list, but the Outlook and its GMC Acadia cousin have nailed it, but I just can’t get past the quality question. We are replacing a Chevy pickup that has been in the shop for a $500+ repair at least twice every year since I bought it ten years ago. I’m not too excited about starting that process all over again, especially when I compare that history to our Maxima, which had only one major repair in the same timeframe!
I concur with the sluggish driving comment above, which doesn’t help my concern either, but I might forego the performance drive to get the other requirements. If anyone knows anything about GM’s current quality versus Japanese or German cars, please help.
AutoPacific’s current Vehicle Satisfaction ratings for General Motors vehicles has them coming close to Japanese and Korean vehicles in Satisfaction and superior to European vehicles which all appear to have niggling problems. Saturn/Enclave/Acadia are an all new platform (Lambda) assembled at an all new assembly plant. While Honda, for instance, appears to have the ability to pull off a new car intro and plant startup pretty flawlessly, it is very tough… evidence Nissan’s Canton Mississippi plant and Toyota’s San Antonio Texas plant. From a design standpoint, it is difficult to find flaws in GM’s Lambda Crossover SUVs, but the quality results are months away from being known. Given recent results, however, and GM’s 100,000 mile warranty these vehicles might not be too much of a risk.
I think the Saturn Outlook is for people who don’t care or understand the driving experience. When you look at the specs on paper, the Outlook looks like a decent deal, but when you have to live with it, expect a different result.
I found the Outlook to be dull beyond words. The seats are flat and while the example I drove had decent leather hides, I felt like the seat was meant for people who hate to walk and can’t tell the difference in the chair they use at home. Perhaps it’s a matter of adding things up – because if you try to drive the Outlook with vigor, it will push like an oil tanker at sea – and you’ll slide off the seat.
The fit and finish are nice overall and GM is obviously getting its act together in this regard. The radio is pretty nice and all of the various options are nicely organized.
Not to repeat myself too much, it’s the driving that makes this Saturn such a bore. At the same time, given the average Saturn demographic buyer, the driving experience hasn’t been at the top of the list. I think this is important for Saturn to recognize – I have never been a GM fan, but I liked the look of this new crossover and wanted to like it – as I must replace my SUV in awhile. Now that I’ve driven it, I know why I don’t like it – and that’s too bad for Saturn. New buyers are important to every brand – but this Outlook just sings (or gurgles) to the choir.